For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2004 James Melough

7:1.  “Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son, of Hilkiah.”


There is a time gap of about 58 years between chapters 6 and 7, what is written here being the record of the second return, in 458 B.C., of the Jews who had been exiled to Babylon.  The book of Esther records some of the events which occurred in those 58 years.


Assyria, meaning a step, had at that time been brought under the dominion of Persia, but is mentioned here, it is generally believed, because of its having been once one of Israel’s most oppressive foes.  Relative to restored and obedient Israel, Assyria’s fall is the reminder that “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him,” Proverbs 16:7.


“... to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.”  God’s purpose in this was to enable them to build His earthly house, the Temple.  He has strengthened our hands by equipping each believer with a spiritual gift, so that we too might do His work, both in His house the Church, and also in the world by preaching the Gospel.


Incidentally, Scripture makes it clear that each believer is endowed with but one spiritual gift, see 1 Timothy 4:14 and 2 Timothy 1:6 where the endowment is “gift” singular, not “gifts” plural.  Only the Apostles were endued with multiple spiritual gifts.


Its being emphasized that He was “the God of Israel” is to teach us that only those who obey Him can know Him as the God Who blesses.  All others, i.e., unbelievers, the disobedient, know Him not; but in the torment of hell and the lake of fire, they will learn that He is the God Who “is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and (Who) canst not look on iniquity,” Habakkuk 1:13, and Who will punish the unrepentant evildoer.


For the convenience of the reader, the meaning of each name listed in verses 2-5 follows it in italics.


7:2.  “The son of Shallum requital: restitution, the son of Zadok to justify, the son of Ahitub brother of goodness,”


7:3.  “The son of Amariah the saying of Jehovah, the son of Azariah helped of Jah (Jehovah), the son of Meraioth rebellions,”


7:4.  “The son of Zerahiah the rising of Jah, the son of Uzzi my strength, the son of Bukki emptied out,”


7:5.  “The son of Abishua father of salvation, or of riches, the son of Phinehas mouth of pity, the son of Eleazar God is helper, the son of Aaron light-bringer the chief priest:”


There would unquestionably be spiritual profit in examining the meanings of all these names, but since such a study would take us beyond the parameters of this commentary, we will omit it, and leave the reader to pursue that study for himself.  This list, incidentally, is not all-inclusive: some generations are omitted.


The genealogical line ends with Ezra, meaning help, the author of this prophetic book.


7:6.  “This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the Lord his God upon him.”


His being a “ready” scribe means that he was skilled, diligent in the study of Scripture, something God would have all of us to be, as it is written not only to Timothy, but to all of us, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” 2 Timothy 2:15.


He Who is King of kings, and Lord of lords, will give in even greater measure to every obedient believer, for such a man will ask, not for temporal, but spiritual enrichment, so that Christ may be glorified; as it is written again, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you,” Matthew 7:7; the further assurance being given that He, “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think,” Ephesians 3:20.


“... Ezra went up from Babylon,” adds further instruction, for Babylon represents the world’s false religious systems, particularly that of apostate Christendom.  We too have come “up from Babylon,” for prior to conversion, every one of us was involved in some degree with what Babylon represents.


“... according to the hand of the Lord his God upon him.”  Since  God’s hand may be upon a man either in blessing or chastisement, it behooves us to walk before Him in obedience, so that His hand may be upon us in blessing.


7:7.  “And there went up some of the children of Israel, and of the priests, and the Levites, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims, unto Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes, the king.”


The fact that only “some” of the children of Israel, went up from Babylon, is the reminder that the majority of true believers, even today, are content to remain in a religious system governed by clericalism, which is anathema to God, His loathing of it being twice repeated in the words of condemnation pronounced against both its deeds and its doctrine, “which thing I hate,” see Rev 2:6,15.  There is evil significance attached to the fact that six groups left Babylon: Israelites, priests, Levites, singers, porters, and the Nethinims, for six is the scriptural number of man, weakness, and sin, coming as it does just short of seven, the number of perfection and completeness.


The Nethinims were Temple servants, and are generally believed to have been descended from the Gibeonites mentioned in Joshua 9.


7:8.  “And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king.”


Inasmuch as Jerusalem is synonymous with peace, the meaning of the name being dual peace shall be taught: lay or set ye double peace, their coming to it is the symbolic announcement of the fact that he who obeys God walks in the enjoyment of His peace “which passeth all understanding,” Philippians 4:7.


Five is the number of responsibility, so that their coming to Jerusalem in the fifth month reminds us that we are responsible to obey God if we would enjoy the peace of which Jerusalem speaks.


Since seven is the number of perfection and completeness, their coming also in “the seventh year of the king” speaks of the perfection of the believer’s redeemed state as a result of the true “King’s” vicarious death and resurrection.


7:9.  “For upon the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him.”


The journey from Babylon to Jerusalem took four (the number of testing) months; and no spiritual mind will have difficulty  seeing in that four-month journey a type of the journey of life from the moment of conversion till arrival in heaven, for that time period is also one of testing, in which, sadly, we all too often fail.


We rob ourselves of much, however, if we fail to recognize that Jerusalem is also a type of the peace into which we may enter here and now, a peace from which only disobedience can exclude us.  Relative to that peace which God wants every believer to enjoy now, the Lord Himself has given His assurance, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you,” John 14:27.


His coming to Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month is also instructive, for five is the number of responsibility, and the lesson to be learnt from this section is that the peace which Jerusalem represents is inseparable from our responsibility to walk before God in obedience.


God’s hand being upon him is the symbolic reminder that God’s hand is upon every believer; and its being described as “the good hand” continues to remind us that every circumstance of life, including seeming adversity, is designed for our ultimate good, and eternal blessing.


7:10.  “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.”


Ezra’s having “prepared his heart” means that he had resolved to devote himself to the study of God’s Word; and his determination “to do it” assures us that he would permit nothing to hinder that Word from controlling his life; while his teaching Israel, tells us of his equally strong resolve to pass on to others what he himself learned from his study of Scripture, passing on to them its rules and regulations, and emphasizing the imperative of obedience as the prerequisite of blessing.


Our spiritual state would be much healthier if we were to make the same commitment to the study and obedience of Scripture, and were faithful in passing on to other believers that same knowledge, so that they too might enjoy more abundant blessing.


7:11.  “Now this is the copy of the letter that the king, Artaxerxes gave unto Ezra the priest, the scribe, even a scribe of the words of the commandments of the Lord, and of his statutes to Israel.”


Verse 12 begins the record of what was written in the letter which Artaxerxes gave to Ezra, who was not only a priest, but also a scribe, i.e., one who knew and taught what was written in Scripture, and unlike many of Israel’s scribes, he was one who obeyed what was written, so that he was an example to those he taught.  We too ought to walk in his footsteps.


7:12.  “Artaxerxes, king of kings, unto Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect peace, and at such a time.”


The description “king of kings” declares that Aratxerxes, king of Persia, was well aware of his own importance and power; but his describing Jehovah as “the God of heaven” makes it equally clear that he acknowledged Him as supreme among the gods worshiped by the nations, though, as noted already, it does not imply that he himself was a believer.


The “... perfect peace” he wished Ezra was just a polite form of greeting, and “at such a time” was the equivalent of out etcetra, i.e., “perfect peace” and other good wishes.


7:13.  “I make a decree, that all they of the people of Israel, and of his priests and Levites, in my realm, which are minded of their own free-will to go up to Jerusalem, go with thee.”


A further expression of his goodwill was this decree permitting all the Jews who wished, to leave Babylon and return to Jerusalem with Ezra.


7:14.  “Forasmuch as thou art sent of the king, and of his seven counselors (advisors), to enquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, according to the law of thy God which is in thine hand:”


“... the law” mentioned here referred to the OT Scriptures which were in Ezra’s possession.


7:15.  “And to carry the silver and gold, which the king and his counsellors have freely offered unto the God of Israel, whose habitation is in Jerusalem,”


The silver and gold were the treasures which Nebuchadnezzar had looted from the Temple during his incursion against Israel seventy years earlier.  All of these vessels Artaxerxes now freely returned.


7:16.  “And all the silver and gold that thou canst find in all the province of Babylon, with the freewill offering of the people, and of the priests, offering willingly for the house of their God, which is in Jerusalem;”


In addition to returning all the valuables that had been plundered, Artaxerxes commanded that whatever other silver and gold were given for the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, the Jews were to be permitted to carry away all of it without interference.


7:17.  “That thou mayest buy speedily with this money bullocks, rams, lambs, with their meal offerings and their drink oferings, and offer them upon the altar of the house of your God which is in Jerusalem.”


This abundant provision for the worship of Jehovah by His returning people seems to indicate that Artaxerxes was more than anxious to have the God of the Jews look upon him with favor, and it is to be suspected that the giving of many today is prompted by the same motive.


7:18.  “And whatsoever shall seem good to thee, and to thy brethren, to do with the rest of the silver and gold, that do after the will of your God.”


His generosity went beyond providing for the worship of Jehovah.  Whatever surplus there might be was to be used as they, the Jews, should be directed by their God.


7:19.  “The vessels also that are given thee for the service of  the house of thy God, those deliver thou before the God of Jerusalem.”


All the vessels used in connection with the worship of Jehovah were to be set in their proper places in the Temple about to be built.


7:20.  “And whatever more shall be needful for the house of thy God, which thou shalt have occasion to bestow, bestow it out of the king’s treasure house.”


Anything needed beyond what was being freely returned, the king would gladly give out of his own treasure house, and unquestionably it was God Who had implanted this magnanimous spirit in the heart of Artaxerxes, reminding us that if God be for us, none can be against us, and reminding us further that He “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think,” Ephesians 3:20.


7:21.  “And I, even I, Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers which are beyond the river (Euphrates), that whatsoever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of Heaven, shall require of you, it be done speedily,”


This was beyond anything the returning Jews could have imagined, and inasmuch as their departure from Babylon to Canaan may be the typological picture of our departure from this present evil world into our eternal home in heaven, the wealth taken with them may point to the eternal riches that will accompany our entrance into heaven, as it is written, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him,” 1 Corinthians 2:9.


7:22.  “Unto a hundred talents of silver, and to an hundred measures of wheat, and to an hundred baths of wine, and to an hundred baths of oil, and salt without prescribing how much.”


Magnanimous as was Artaxerxes’ giving, it had nevertheless a limit, for only God’s resources are infinite.


The hundred talents of silver was about 3¾ tons; the hundred measures of wheat, approximately 600 bushels; the hundred baths of wine, about 600 gallons; and the hundred baths of oil, about 600 gallons.  Since the quantity of salt needed in connection with the offerings was relatively small, the amount wasn’t specified.


7:23.  “Whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be diligently done for the house of the God of heaven: for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons?”


This continues to indicate that Aratxerxes’ fear was prompted, not by a proper knowledge of God, but because as a superstitious idolator he dreaded the anger of this One Whom he regarded as the chief of all the gods.


7:24.  “Also we inform you, that touching any of the priests and Levites, singers, porters, Nethinims, or ministers of this house of God, it shall not be lawful to impose toll, tribute, or custom. upon them.”


Those listed embraced every individual who would minister in any capacity in the service of the Temple, and indicates that the king feared not only the God of heaven, but also those who served Him in connection with the Temple worship.  All such persons Artaxerxes absolved from obligation to pay taxes.


7:25.  “And thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God, that is in thine hand, set magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people that are beyond the river, all such as know the laws of thy God; and teach ye them that know them not.”


“... the wisdom of thy God, that is in thine hand,” is generally believed to have had reference to the Jewish Scriptures, i.e., the books (scrolls) of the OT that had been completed at that time.  The appointment of Jewish magistrates and judges continues to disclose the wide extent of the autonomy which the Jews were permitted to enjoy under Artaxerxes.  His command that all Jews  be taught God’s law, makes it clear that the king had no intention of abolishing Jewish law in favor of the Babylonian system.


7:26.  “And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment.”


His reverence for Jehovah is further attested by his command that swift judgment was to be meted out to the person who refused to obey God’s law, or that which he himself had promulgated.


7:27.  “Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify the house of the Lord, which is in Jerusalem:”


7:28.  “And hath extended mercy unto me before the king, and his counsellors, and before all the king’s mighty princes.  And I was strengthened as the hand of the Lord, my God was upon me and I gathered together out of Israel chief men to go up with me.”


Ezra gratefully acknowledged Jehovah as the One who had put it into the heart of Artaxerxes and his counsellors and princes to be well disposed toward the building of the Temple, and he thanked Him for the encouragement he himself had derived from His activity on behalf of His people.  Thus encouraged, he gathered together a group of Jewish leaders to go up with him to Jerusalem.


Ezra’s recognition of God as the One Who worked unseen to further the enterprize he and the others had undertaken, rebukes our frequent failures to discern the same Divine hand working invisibly to order circumstances for our blessing.  Honesty must surely also compel us to confess failure to return Him thanks

even when it is clear that He has worked all things together for our good.

[Ezra 8]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough